NCDD Sponsor Shares Nevins Fellow Experience

NCDD has been part of the ongoing effort by Penn State’s McCourtney Institute for Democracy, to connect students from their Nevins Democracy Leaders Program to internships with individuals and organizations in the D&D, public engagement field. Which is why we are excited to share this blog piece from NCDD sponsor org The Jefferson Center about their recent intern’s experience working on the Minnesota Community Assembly Project. The Nevins Democracy Leaders Program is an incredible opportunity to host a D&D-trained student at no cost for two months during the summer.  You can learn more about the Nevins Democracy Leaders Program by checking out our earlier write-ups on the blog here and by listening to the Confab Call recording here.

We encourage you to read the Jefferson Center blog post below and you can find the original version on their site here.


The Minnesota Community Assemblies: Red Wing

This June and July the Jefferson Center hosted a Penn State student, Emma Rohan, made possible by Penn State’s Nevins Fellows program. Emma’s academic work focuses on education policy, and she came to us with experience in the field of deliberative democracy. While she was here, we were grateful for Emma’s support in the first of three Minnesota Community Assemblies — Red Wing. Below is Emma’s reflection on the experience.

It’s been an exciting and engaging start to the Minnesota Community Assembly Project (MNCAP)! This project, part of our Democratic Innovation Program, began in Red Wing over the course of three weekends. On Friday, June 9, participants gathered in the Red Wing Ignite event room, brimming with expectation and more than a little caffeine.

Eight full days of deliberation is a lot of work and commitment, but the thirty-six Red Wing citizens were in it for the long haul. Before they got down to business, participants had the chance to introduce themselves to their neighbors by sharing what they are sacrificing in order to be present at the Citizens Assembly. Taking care of children, enjoying free weekends with family, and going to work are just a few of the activities that participants agreed to forgo for this eight-day project, acknowledging that engaging in citizen-led democracy sometimes involves personal sacrifice.

These participants, randomly selected to reflect the demographics of their community, set out to learn about local government, discuss strengths and areas for improvement, identify the values underpinning good local government, and explore and recommend opportunities to ensure their local government reflects these values.

Participants learned about local government structures from experts around the globe – from Minnesota to Australia. Each equipped with a tablet, participants could vote on their preferred alternatives while visual representations of the results revealed themselves on the big screen. Bonds were forged as citizens helped each other navigate the digital voting system on their tablets.

During the second weekend, June 23-25, two guests joined the assembly in Red Wing to observe, though neither were new to the process. In the case of Ned Crosby, the founder of the Jefferson Center, this was an opportunity to see old processes in a new setting. As the creator of the Citizens Jury process in the United States, Dr. Crosby took the backseat this time, taking note of participation dynamics and exchanging ideas with our other guest observer, Neall Ireland.

A participant in a Canadian province-wide Citizens Assembly in British Columbia in 2004, Neil was captivated by the experience and makes it a habit to seek out opportunities to watch other assemblies in action around the globe: “I really enjoyed observing the Citizen’s Jury; found it particularly interesting to see how there is a common theme for in this type of process for the participants. It is my thought when educated to the issues and empowered, citizen participation truly is the most effective method of engagement and means to making impactful decisions for a constituency. I admire each of the individuals who have come forward to donate their time and contribute to their communities in a meaningful way. I am certain that each of the three communities engaged in the this process will move forward from it in a positive way and be a great example for other communities in the future.”

As the process moved along, time revealed that even cohesive and unified communities carry underlying tension. Discussions on participation responsibilities and representation in local government sparked contention, and the facilitated conversation unearthed divergent expectations and assumptions between community members. With careful attention paid to group dynamics and how a deliberation space may advantage some and silence others, it was refreshing to notice participants sort out their disagreements themselves over a snack break.

Citizens Juries aimed at the prospect of equipping people to evaluate the structure of their local governments and the platform to recommend changes is an undertaking which requires special consideration toward the role of the facilitator. As outsiders in a tight-knit community, the Jefferson Center team realizes the value of presentation of unbiased materials, giving participants space to share and respond to each other, and knowing when to step in to move the conversation along. Even so, navigating uncharted territory comes with miscalculations and oversights. End-of-the-day surveys gave participants the opportunity to share their feedback on the content and process of the event from a facilitation standpoint, and changes were incorporated in order to steer the group in the right direction.

The final weekend in Red Wing presented some of the largest challenges yet, while simultaneously inspiring some of the greatest displays of individual hard work and collective responsibility. With the deadline for the final recommendation by the Community Assembly fast approaching, participants worked together to craft their final recommendations and supporting statements, the report representing the culmination of their work together. Decisions about the presentation of the report were far from unanimous, and even after eight-hour days of deliberation, citizens in Red Wing stayed overtime to continue the discussion.

The Red Wing Community Assembly’s vision statement highlights some of the qualities of local government participants agreed were indispensable: “Our community needs a clear strategic vision, with leadership committed to working toward that vision. We’d like to see broad community participation, engagement, and communication – all aspects of transparency – to ensure community members are informed and engaged in developing and implementing our strategic vision and holding leadership accountable.” To accomplish this vision, the assembly advocated for a few alternatives to the status quo, such as ranked-choice voting, stronger financial disclosure requirements , better public meetings, and digital public engagement. It is important to note that support for these recommendations was not unanimous, and citizens had the opportunity to express their personal dissent or further recommendations by submitting a personal statement attached to the final report. See the final report in its entirety here.

By the end of our time in Red Wing, we couldn’t help but notice a renewed sense of ownership and personal stake in many of the citizens toward the governance of their communities. Several people shared new commitments they have undertaken since the Community Assembly got underway: people described their conversations with family and friends about the work they’ve done, several participants mentioned applying for local boards and commissions for the first time, and one participant even wrote a Letter to the Editor in the local newspaper. Regardless of the outcome, the value of forging these types of relationships between communities and their local governments cannot be overstated.

We are enthusiastic about the ways Red Wing will carry on this work beyond the formal process of the Community Assembly and into the community as a whole. One down, with Willmar and Brooklyn Park on deck!

You can find the original version of the Jefferson Center blog post at www.jefferson-center.org/red-wing-summary/.

Summer Resources from the NCDD Community

There have been several new resources recently released in the D&D field that have crossed the path of NCDD staff and we wanted to share a few of the key resources with you here on the blog. These resources will also be catalogued in the NCDD Resource Center and you can learn more about them over there. We know there are many more resources in the NCDD network out there, so let us know what else you are hearing about in the comments below!

NCDDers John Gastil and Katherine Knobloch, along with Justin Reedy, Mark Henkels, and Katherine Cramer wrote the recently published research article, Assessing the Electoral Impact of the 2010 Oregon Citizens’ Initiative ReviewThe report of how the Oregon’s CIR has impacted the electoral politics and voter behavior since it became part of the process in 2010. You can read the article here.

We are excited to let you know the Center for Public Deliberation at Colorado State University recently published the report, Inclusion Around the Cyclewritten by Samantha Maldonado a grad student of NCDD Board Member Martín Carcasson. The report offers strategies for inclusivity of non-dominant voices before, during, and after deliberative processes. You can read Samantha’s report here.

The book, Deliberative Pedagogy: Teaching and Learning for Democratic Engagement was edited by Timothy Shaffer, Nicholas Longo, Idit Manosevitch, and Maxine Thomas. This volume is written for faculty members and academic professionals involved in curricular, co-curricular, and community settings, as well as administrators who seek to support faculty, staff, and students in such efforts. The authors build upon contemporary research on participatory approaches to teaching and learning while simultaneously offering a robust introduction to the theory and practice of deliberative pedagogy as a new educational model for civic life. The book is available on AmazonSmile here and remember when you shop AmazonSmile, they will donate to NCDD on your behalf when you select for donations to go to “The National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation, Inc”!

National Civic League released their All-America Conversations Toolkit. All-America Conversations are designed to help cities and other groups understand residents’ aspirations for the community, the divisions facing the community and, most importantly, the small, specific actions that give people a sense of confidence that we can work across dividing lines. The toolkit can be found at: www.nationalcivicleague.org/all-america-conversations/.

We hope you will check out these great resources as part of your summer reading! We’re always impressed with the rich content coming from the D&D community.

Did we miss something? Let us know in the comments what other resources, reports, books, articles, etc. you are reading this summer, or anything you have published recently!

 

Recap from Frontiers of Democracy 2017

Outgoing NCDD Youth Engagement Coordinator Roshan Bliss attended this year’s Frontiers of Democracy Conference hosted by the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University in the Boston area. The conference was held from June 22-24 and focused on the theme, Deliberative Democracy in an Era of Rising Authoritarianism.

Around 150 of D&D scholars, practitioners, and leaders participated in workshops, discussions, and plenaries focused on the question of what the rising leaders who appear opposed to democracy around the world means for the field of dialogue, deliberation, and public engagement, and most importantly, how we should respond. The full schedule for Frontiers 2017 is still available to check out here with detailed information on plenaries, speakers, and break out sessions.

NCDDers were prominently featured in the gathering’s schedule, including NCDD Board member Wendy Willis of Deliberative Democracy Consortium, who gave opening remarks on the effect of loneliness on civic life. Roshan presented a workshop on Saturday afternoon with several individuals, including Shari Davis of the Participatory Budgeting Project – a NCDD member org, on the promise and potential of seeing student governments as key venues in which to grow and spread deliberative democracy. Organizational NCDD member Ashley Trim of the Davenport Institute challenged our field to be more genuinely open to conservatives and you can read her poignant talk on Healthy Democracy’s site here. The gathering ended with a challenge from Dr. Archon Fung for our field to rethink the role of power in the work of dialogue & deliberative democracy and to deeply consider that we may not change much without engaging in real ways with efforts to build and wield it.

We wanted to lift up the post-conference reflection piece from Peter Levine, where he explores the direct and indirect paths to deliberative democracy and the future of dialogue and deliberation work. He wrote:

“My main point is that we must consider the choice between direct and indirect paths to deliberative democracy, taking due account of the institutions, incentives, power structures, and social divisions that actually exist in our society.

For what it’s worth, my own view would be that it’s important to build and sustain a movement devoted to explicit work on dialogue and deliberation. Deliberative experiments yield knowledge of group processes, generate models that can be inspiring, and produce a cadre of professionals whose well-deserved reputations for skillful neutrality make them useful at opportune moments.”

For more information on the Frontiers conference, check out the info from Tisch below or on their website here. You can also look through the #demfront hashtag on twitter or this great Storify page that Joshua Miller created of the #demfront hashtag which you can see here.


Frontiers 2017 via Tisch

Thanks to everyone who joined us at an exciting, thought-provoking, and timely Frontiers of Democracy 2017. You can watch video of this year’s introduction, “short take” speakers, and one of our afternoon plenaries, below. (Click on each video’s description for timestamps that allow you to skip to a specific speaker’s presentation.)

Frontiers 2017 was focused on multiple frameworks for civic and democratic work developed respectively by Caesar McDowell of the Interaction Institute for Social Change and MIT, Archon Fung of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and Tisch College’s Peter Levine. Our short take speakers included Rev. Dr. F. Willis Johnson, the senior minister of Wellspring Church in Ferguson, Missouri; Wendy Willis of the Deliberative Democracy Consortium and the National Policy Consensus Center; and Hardy Merriman, President of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.

In addition, the Journal of Public Deliberation, the Deliberative Democracy Consortium, and The Democracy Imperative held a pre-conference symposium on “Deliberative Democracy in an Era of Rising Authoritarianism.”

More about Frontiers of Democracy
Frontiers of Democracy is an annual conference hosted by the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University. The event is organized in collaboration with several partners, which in 2017 included Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center and the Deliberative Democracy Consortium.

Now more than ever, the frontiers of democracy are threatened around the world. Leaders and movements that have popular support—yet are charged with being undemocratic, xenophobic, and illiberal—are influential or dominant in many countries. Meanwhile, many peoples continue to face deep and sustained repression. Social movements and networks are confronting this global turn to authoritarianism. This conference brings together scholars and practitioners from  do to defend and expand the frontiers of democracy.

Frontiers of Democracy immediately follows the Summer Institute of Civic Studies, a 2-week seminar for scholars, practitioners, and advanced graduate students.

Upcoming IAP2 Trainings with The Participation Company

Looking to increase your public engagement and facilitation skills? Check out the upcoming training opportunities from NCDD member org, The Participation Company (TPC)! Not only are they offering their Foundations in Public Participation certificate program and the recently revised IAP2’s Strategies for Dealing with Opposition and Outrage in Public Participation; there is a new course added on Facilitation for P2 Practitioners. The trainings earn participants a certificate in public participation with IAP2 and NCDD members receive a per day discount!

You can learn more about the TPC trainings in the announcement below or on their website here.


The Participation Company’s 2017 Training Events

If you work in communications, public relations, public affairs, planning, public outreach and understanding, community development, advocacy, or lobbying, this training will help you to increase your skills and to be of even greater value to your employer.

This is your chance to join the many thousands of practitioners worldwide who have completed the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) certificate training.

Foundations in Public Participation (5-day) Certificate Program:

Planning for Effective Public Participation (3-days) and/or
*Techniques
 for Effective Public Participation (2-days)

  • October 16-20 – Orlando, FL (3-day Planning and 2-day Techniques)
  • October 30-November 3 – Arlington, VA (3-day Planning and 2-day Techniques)
  • November 6-10 – Walnut Creek, CA (3-day Planning and 2-day Techniques)

*The 3-day Planning training is a prerequisite to Techniques training

IAP2’s Strategies for Dealing with Opposition and Outrage in Public Participation (2-day): 

  • August 17-18 – Chicago, IL (2-day EOP2)
  • November 16-17 – Denver, CO (2-day EOP2)

Register online for these trainings at www.theparticipationcompany.com/training/calendar

Introducing TPC’s newest course offering “FP3”

Facilitation for P2 Practitioners – FP3 (3-day):

Building on best practices from both the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) and the International Association of Facilitators (IAF), this course introduces the basics of facilitation in the public arena. Participants learn how to design and conduct successful facilitated public involvement events. It is designed as a small, intensive interactive learning opportunity. For more information go to https://theparticipationcompany.com/training/courses/facilitator-training/

Is your organization interested in hosting a training event? Host discounts are provided. Contact us at melissa[at]theparticipationcompany[dot]com.

Check our website for updates to the calendar.

More About the Trainings…

Foundations in Public Participation – The International Association for Public Participation (IAP2)
Public involvement and community engagement are constantly changing. IAP2’s highly respected training program has evolved with ongoing changes in demographics, people’s attitudes and expectations, and public policy.

Both new and experienced practitioners and managers of community engagement will benefit from the structure, proven techniques, and knowledge that you’ll learn in this highly interactive training course.

This course, Foundations in Public Participation, will let you hit the ground running, armed with the knowledge and confidence you need to plan and execute effective public initiatives with community engagement for any area in which you may be working. The course is divided into two modules, each focusing on one of the two major phases of public communication and participation: Planning and Techniques. Upon completion of both modules, you will receive a certificate of completion from IAP2.

Designed by successful practitioners who work with diverse populations and divergent circumstances throughout the world, this comprehensive new program is grounded in what you, your peers, and your mentors have told us about your training needs.

Strategies for Dealing with Opposition and Outrage in Public Participation
The world has changed since IAP2 first rolled out the course with Dr. Peter Sandman a few years ago. Global polls find people are more suspicious and distrustful of large institutions including government, business, media and even large non-governmental organizations.

Angry people can’t represent their interests very well in participate processes and thus ignoring their skepticism isn’t productive.

IAP2 has expanded and refreshed the course materials to help you work more effectively in this changed world. Way beyond just another conflict resolution training class, the newly renamed Strategies for Dealing with Opposition and Outrage in Public Participation helps people understand the human behavior and emotional intelligence of working with angry and cynical people under these tough circumstances. Doing so is foundational to the practice.

Conflict resolution training is needed to address the increasing trend of public anger in society. Growing global citizen outrage causes government gridlock, lawsuits, stopped projects, us vs. them attitudes, destroyed credibility, and loss of time and money. The newly updated Strategies for Dealing with Opposition and Outrage in Public Participation (formerly called Emotion, Outrage and Public Participation) is a conflict resolution training workshop that builds on IAP2’s global best practices in public involvement, the work of Dr. Peter Sandman, a foremost researcher and expert in public outrage and risk communication, and decades of lessons learned. This course will help you move people from rage to reason and engage stakeholders in building consensus for better decisions.

The Participation Company offers discounted rates to NCDD members. Visit www.theparticipationcompany.com/training/calendar for more information and on-line registration.

DDPE Graduate Certificate Offers NCDD Member Discount

We are pleased to share that the Dialogue, Deliberation, and Public Engagement (DDPE) Graduate Certificate program at Kansas State University will offer NCDD members a 10% discount! [Fun fact: the price of your annual NCDD membership pays for itself with JUST this discount and there are so many more benefits!] The DDPE program is an opportunity to strengthen skills and understanding around theory and practice of leading groups in collaborative decision-making. The deadline for registration is August 21st, so make sure you register ASAP before it’s too late. Please feel free to contact Timothy J. Shaffer, PhD at tjshaffer[at]ksu[dot]edu with any questions.

You can learn more about the K-State DDPE program below or find the original on KSU’s site here.


Dialogue, Deliberation, and Public Engagement Graduate Certificate

Designed to be a transformative experience for graduate students and professionals, this program covers the practice and theory of leading groups through collaborative decision-making. Through a series of four courses, students will learn:

  • approaches to participatory planning and collaborative decision-making that are supported by sound scholarship
  • communication and leadership skills for designing and leading productive meetings
  • dialogic practices for developing and maintaining constructive working relationships and managing conflict
  • proven frameworks selecting or designing engagement processes for organizations, stakeholders, or whole communities
  • a wide range of tools and techniques for engaging small and large groups to address conflicts, explore alternatives and inform policy
  • principles and practices that move groups toward sustainable action that changes lives

Courses are presented in a hybrid format, with some offered completely online and others having face to face interaction. Students will interact regularly with each other and leaders in the field, who serve as collaborating guest faculty. A capstone engagement project concludes the certificate. Recognized as one of the most valued parts of the program, it provides opportunities for coached practice with faculty and seasoned practitioners.

Students in the program may pursue a 12-hour graduate certificate by enrolling in the courses for credit. The DDPE program is also designed for individuals who desire noncredit professional development instead of academic credit.

Noncredit Registration Information
The information below is intended for those who do not wish to receive academic credit for DDPE courses. Program fees do not cover potential travel costs associated with the face-to-face components of the Process Models and Capstone Experience courses. A 10 percent discount is available for National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation members. Registrants who do not have a Kansas State University eID will be required to obtain one after registering for the program. Instructions for requesting an eID will be provided in the registration confirmation email.

Full program fee: $3,800.00

Individual course fees (courses must be taken in sequence):

  • Theoretical Foundations (online): $1,000
  • Process Models (online and face to face): $1,000
  • Core Skills and Strategies (online): $1,000
  • Capstone Experience (online and face to face): $1,000

REGISTER NOW

For questions about registering for noncredit, please contact the Conferences and Noncredit Programs registration office at 785-532-5569 or 800-432-8222. Business hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CDT Monday through Friday.

Careers in Dialogue, Deliberation, and Public Engagement
The DDPE prepares graduate students and professionals to better serve communities through effective facilitation, communication, and leadership. Those in the following careers will be well-served by the program:

– city managers
– mediators
– Extension professionals
– community and organizational development specialists
– conflict resolution professionals
– county and city planners
– public servants
– elected officials

Accreditation
Kansas State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

The graduate certificate in Dialogue, Deliberation, and Public Engagement is offered through the Department of Communication Studies in the K-State College of Arts and Sciences.

Informed by the growing field of academic research dedicated to improving public deliberation, this practice-oriented certificate answers a demand from practitioners for an in-depth, graduate-level treatment of public engagement. The longstanding noncredit version of the program was created collaboratively with the International Institute for Sustained Dialogue, the Kettering Foundation, the Centre for Citizenship and Public Policy, University of Western Sydney, and the Public Dialogue Consortium. Designed and championed by the late Barnett Pearce, the program has an international alumni base representing the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Denmark, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Bolivia and Haiti.

The original version of the DDPE program information at http://global.k-state.edu/artsci/ddpe/.

Kettering and NIFI Offer CGA Training for Educators

We wanted to give educators in the NCDD network a heads up about the upcoming training from NCDD member org, Kettering Foundation, on using the online deliberation platform, Common Ground for Action. On August 15 & 16, Kara Dillard and Amy Lee of Kettering, will host a two-hour session training each day on how to use this online deliberation platform in the classroom; including: how to convene and moderate a forum, best practices, and classroom design ideas. The training on August 15th will be from 1-3pm Eastern/ 10am-12pm Pacific & on August 16th from 3-5pm Eastern/12-2pm Pacific. The announcement below was from the most recent NIFI Moderator’s Circle listserv email (sent June 28th) – contact NIFI to learn more about joining this list.

Make sure you register ASAP to secure your spot for the CGA Training for Educators here.


Calling All Teachers!

HIGH SCHOOL, MIDDLE SCHOOL, COLLEGE
LEARN ABOUT USING ONLINE FORUMS IN THE CLASSROOM
August 15 & 16, 2017

ENCOURAGING DIALOGUE IN THE CLASSROOM

Want to help students exchange views on the tough issues facing our country?

Want to help students use their critical thinking skills on current events?

Want to know more about using online forums in the classroom?

This August, over two consecutive days, Kettering and National Issues Forums Institute will host a moderator training session for K-12 and college faculty interested in using online Common Ground for Action (CGA) forums in the classroom.

The sessions will cover:
– How to set up a CGA forum
– The moderator’s responsibilities
– Hacks and tricks for moderating
– Practice exercises on setting up and moderating forums
– Q & A on integrating CGA forums into the classroom
– Potential assignments and evaluation metrics

WHEN: Tuesday, August 15, 1:00-3:00 pm (EDT) and Wednesday, August 16, 3:00-5:00 pm (EDT) REGISTER HERE

Participating is easy. You need a computer with internet access and speakers. A microphone is helpful, but not required. Register to participate and you’ll get an email with all the details.

Interested to learn more about the Common Ground for Action forum? Check out the video below from NIFI to find out how to participate in a CGA forum.

You can register for the CGA Moderators Training for Educators at http://conta.cc/2tqiIY2

NCDD Orgs Respond on How to Save American Democracy

As we grapple with a quickly changing political environment, many are struggling with the current state of American democracy and what are the best steps to repair our damaged system. Over the course of the year, several writers have expressed their beliefs that the way to improve our political system is to reduce public participation and increase political intermediaries/institutions.

In a direct response to these viewpoints, NCDD member org Healthy Democracy, recently published the article on their blog, Actually, More Public Participation Can Save American Democracy, which can be found here. The Deliberative Democracy Consortium, also a NCDD member org, wrote an immediate follow-up piece inviting the dialogue, deliberation, and public engagement community to respond to these claims and the writers themselves. For information on how to send your responses, read the DDC’s article on their blog here.

The article from Healthy Democracy can be found below or read the original on their blog here.


Actually, More Public Participation Can Save American Democracy

Lee Drutman of the New America Foundation, writing on Vox.com’s Polyarchy blog, makes a bold statement: more public participation isn’t the answer to our political woes because the reasonable, civically-minded voter is a myth. This is the latest in a trend of articles analyzing American politics and the role of citizens, beginning with Jonathan Rauch’s sprawling analysis for the Atlantic of our political system and its populist weaknesses.

Fortunately, Mr. Drutman’s analysis is narrowly focused and should not discourage those of us who have broader imaginations about democracy and the power of an active citizenry. Public participation is not limited to voting for or against representative policymakers, as Drutman asserts. Rather, civic life is a rich ecosystem of opportunities to participate in our grand experiment in self-governance. The individual voter is the building block of democracy. Civically-minded wise Americans exist across the land, and they are doing good, important work in their communities.

Drutman’s article relies on a series of assumptions that are, at the very least, not the whole picture. They are based largely on assumptions that Jonathan Rauch and Benjamin Wittes make in their recent Brookings paper advocating for an increased role of political intermediaries and a decrease in direct democracy. In their world, participation in politics is limited to the election of representatives; the sole result of a citizen exerting their political wisdom is to vote out politicians who prioritize interest groups over the people; and, finally, making politicians serve the people is the end goal of public participation. But in reality, citizenship and public participation encompass a wide array of powers and responsibilities. To be clear, I don’t take issue with the negative impacts of unbridled, reactive populism. Rather, I see clearly the vast and largely untapped potential of democratic wisdom at the citizen level.

The mythical citizen

Drutman articulates others’ assertion that there is a mythical wise citizen who will save our democracy by influencing politicians to serve the people. This citizen is “moderate, reasonable, and civic-minded” and if given more power would compel politicians to behave differently. It would indeed be naïve to assume that this magic citizen would influence American society so greatly that they could change the fundamental behavior of politicians. In that way, the author’s objection to this mythical citizen is easy to make.

And I agree that waiting for a perfectly reasonable, moderate, and civically minded voter to fix our Republic is a flawed strategy. Thankfully for all of us, public participation is much broader, deeper, and more creative than that. The various mechanisms of public participation build civic literacy, increase citizen power through knowledge and interaction with our political systems, and build bridging social capital among disparate groups. There are positive downstream impacts on our local, state, and national communities that come from citizens engaging in their communities in a meaningful way.

Drutman also addresses the role of political intermediaries. These intermediaries, which he defines as “politicians, parties, and interest groups” are the people who help people recognize what their interests are through cues. But this group is depressingly limited, and strikingly partisan. It ignores faith leaders, universities, media, community groups, advisory groups, citizens’ juries, and local government engagement folks. These groups, many of which are nonpartisan, provide moral leadership, knowledge, and granular information about voter interests that Drutman’s definition of intermediaries ignores.

The power of regular citizens

Drutman’s article forecloses the citizen’s ability to participate in democracy in ways that consider tradeoffs and the long-term view. There is a glimpse of possibility in his discussion of hybrid systems, citing Rauch and Wittes’s assertion that ““better decisions” come when specialist and professional judgment occurs “in combination with public judgment.” Unfortunately, Drutman rejects the concept by conjecturing that hybrid systems are not possible because they would not have a clear person who is “in charge” and holding the power. In fact, the entire field of democratic deliberation is devoted to creating hybrid systems that connect citizens with policy experts and allow them the time, space, and information to carefully consider policy choices.

Of course, power is held both formally and informally, and differently depending on the situation. In a classic representative system, elected policymakers have the ultimate power, and they can gather input in various forms. There are also stakeholder processes where groups can be given very strong recommending power, to the point where it would be politically infeasible to reject their advice. There is also direct empowerment of citizens, such as through ballot initiatives and referenda, where a majority vote of the people makes policy. Drutman’s claim that “voters are not policymakers” is simply not true in states, cities, and counties with direct democracy.

Creative solutions

In all of these cases, there are opportunities to merge technical expertise with citizen participation. The example with which I most familiar is the Citizens’ Initiative Review. This process, which was developed by Healthy Democracy, is a hybrid system in which a microcosm of representative citizens (reasonable, moderate, and civic-minded, by the way) examines a ballot measure. They draw upon the arguments of partisan intermediates (advocates for and against the measure) and the input of independent policy experts. Their goal is to provide to their fellow voters a clear statement that outlines the key facts about a ballot measure as well as the best arguments on each side.

The result of public participation in the Citizens’ Initiative Review is an artifact that can be used by voters to make civic-minded decisions when participating in direct democracy. The knowledge that a group of fellow citizens spent four days sorting through the issue on their behalf is an inspiring service, one that can compel not only the people in the room but those who read their statement and appreciate the service to be more civic-minded and engaged in their own lives.

Research by scholars in the political science, communication, and government fields affirms that the Citizens’ Initiative Review process is democratic, deliberative, and unbiased. Their analyses find that Citizens’ Statements are highly accurate and are a reliable source of information for voters. They also find that voters actually do use the statement when casting their ballots, and that voters who read the statement have more knowledge and are more confident in their knowledge.

This piece is not intended to be an advertisement for the Citizens’ Initiative Review, but the fact is that reforms like it are rare and most folks do not have the opportunity to witness these processes and their results. In our unique position as a deliverer of these reforms, we see the extraordinary transformation that regular people undergo when called to serve their fellow voters in this way. The vast majority of citizen participants leave with a better understanding of democracy, political values, and policy analysis—not to mention a deeper understanding of the policy topic under study.

It should be noted that one reason these reforms are rare is because they disrupt the work of partisan intermediaries who would prefer to deliver information to voters through a lens that suits their own ends, often at the expense of accuracy. In a refrain familiar to many political observers, partisan intermediaries’ assessment of the value of nonpartisan intermediaries corresponds closely with how well the information produced via nonpartisan means supports their partisan ends.

Democracy starts–but does not end–with politics

You see, citizen participation takes many forms. And participating in democracy does not fit neatly in the world of policy and politics. It is a common lament recently that hyperpartisanship has led to two Americas, and that our problem is that we refuse to talk to one another. Well, the first step to breaking down hyperpartisanship is to personally know people with politics that oppose your own. Any action that builds bridging social capital (social capital across heterogeneous groups) is an act of democracy. Then, when our democratic systems are stressed, we can draw upon that social capital for resilience. If we can see the other side as people, and don’t demonize, dehumanize, and disregard them based on partisan cues, we can stay engaged in democracy with one another.

In the close of his piece, Drutman calls on us to abandon the search for the mythical average citizen and seek an alternative. Since the author fails to articulate an alternative, I offer one here: let us expand our understanding of public participation to include the multitude of civic actions that add value to our democracy.

We can start in the realm of policymaking and politics with deliberative democracy. Well-designed deliberative processes (see the National Issues Forums, citizens juries, and the Citizens’ Initiative Review, among others) give voters a structured container to consult experts, consider tradeoffs, and deliberate the merits, consequences, and underlying values of policy choices. These processes take time, patience, and resources, but it is a worthwhile investment in the health of our democracy.

Let’s also work to build social capital through community work. A bank of social capital can give us the tools and relationships to better consider policy tradeoffs and impacts to our communities in the future. Additionally, an expanded conception of public participation gives voters opportunities to grow into more civically literate people. Not only can they better understand and act on their interests, they will be more likely to consider political problems creatively if they choose to enter representative politics. These kinds of programs are all around us. See Community Oregon, our experiment in building statewide urban-rural social capital in the state of Oregon, as well as other organizations that bring different types of people together to build connections across differences (e.g. Everyday Democracy, The Village Square, and many others).

The mythical citizen is all around us. She sings in a choir, volunteers her time, helps her neighbor with homework, and teaches her grandchild about the branches of government. She is doing democracy in her everyday life. She is serving her fellow citizens. She is our Plan B.

You can find the original version of this Healthy Democracy blog article at: https://healthydemocracy.org/blog/2017/06/13/actually-more-public-participation-can-save-american-democracy/

To respond to this article via the Deliberative Democracy Consortium blog, click here: http://deliberative-democracy.net/2017/06/15/we-invite-you-to-respond/

Save the Date for David Mathew Center’s 2017 Civic Institute

The NCDD member organization, David Mathews Center for Civic Life announced the date for their upcoming 2017 Civic Institute on August 18. The 2017 Civic Institute is a day-long opportunity to meet with fellow civic engagement enthusiasts and practitioners to explore the future of Alabama. Participants choose one of three event tracks to delve into deeper during Civic Institute, which are: building civic infrastructure, renewing civic education, and creating civic media. This event will also serve as the official launch of the three year forum series, What’s Next, Alabama? which will be an opportunity for Alabamians to envision the future of their communities. We encourage you to read more about the 2017 Civic Institute in the announcement from David Mathews Center below or find the original version here.


2017 Civic Institute – Save the Date: August 18, 2017

The 2017 Civic Institute is your chance to connect with civic-minded change-makers and thought leaders from across Alabama in a dialogue on our state’s past, present, and future. From the morning panel discussion on the “geography of economic prosperity” in rural and urban communities, to the keynote address by Dr. David Mathews, (President and CEO of the Kettering Foundation), the day will be packed with engaging speakers and interactive sessions centered around some of the most profound issues we encounter as Alabamians.

Participants are able to choose among three different learning tracks for the day, including: building civic infrastructure, renewing civic education, and creating civic media. Each track includes a deliberative forum in the morning, as well as an interactive workshop in the afternoon–all in addition to the panel discussion and keynote address, which will be delivered over lunch!

With our state’s bicentennial on the horizon, we believe that the Civic Institute is the perfect event to collectively ponder the power of our citizens and our communities to build the kind of Alabama they want to call home. To this extent, the Civic Institute will serve as the official, statewide launch of the DMC’s newest forum series, aptly titled, What’s Next, Alabama?

This series is a three-year endeavor, focused on what economic prosperity means in different communities across our state. The series will conclude in 2019, coinciding with Alabama’s bicentennial celebrations, and will frame the conversation about our future, even as we celebrate our past.

2017 Civic Institute Learning Tracks:

Building Civic Infrastructure:
This learning track is tailor-made for those wanting to engage their own communities in dialogue and deliberation around important local issues. The morning forum is an abridged “What’s Next, Alabama?” forum, entitled, “The State We’re In.” This will be a deliberative experience in which participants will ask, “where are we now” as a state? What is the story of Alabama at the start of the 21st century? How far have we come? How far do we have to go? Instead of focusing on the assets and challenges of a single locale, this forum will give participants the opportunity to embrace a statewide perspective in order to reimagine the productive potential of what binds us together collectively, and what sets us apart from each other idiosyncratically.

The afternoon workshop, “Building Civic Infrastructure,” will equip participants with the tools necessary to engage their own community in dialogue and deliberation. From naming and framing local issues, to convening and moderating forums, participants will receive a crash course in the building of a meaningful and durable civic infrastructure capable of supporting and sustaining a robust public life for its citizens. The aim of the workshop is to give participants everything they need to bring “What’s Next, Alabama?” forums to their own communities.

Renewing Civic Education:
This track is perfect for educators, government officials, and anyone else interested in transforming the idea of civic engagement into real action. This learning track begins with a deliberative forum on the state of civic education (and education more broadly) in Alabama. With renewed interest in civic education statewide, this forum will be an opportunity to discuss what civic education could and should look like beyond the classroom. How do we get young people to be active citizens in their own communities? How can we create synergy between the classroom and the community? Is there a curricular way to achieve this, or should we also broaden our own understanding of youth engagement to include students and young people playing an active role in local government? These are some of the questions that will frame the morning discussion.

The afternoon workshop, “Community as Classroom: Equipping Youth for Civic Leadership” will give attendees a chance to connect with–and learn from–local elected officials from all over the state that are breaking new ground when it comes to young people playing an active role in their communities. Participants will hear from local elected officials about how they are working side by side with youth to confront the epidemic of brain-drain, retain the young talent they have in their communities, and propel that next generation into civic leadership roles.

Creating Civic Media:
This track is ideal for those interested in the fields of media, journalism, art, technology, and public life. To begin, attendees will participate in a group discussion entitled, “Flipping the Script: A Dialogue on Media, Representation, and the Role of Alabama in the National Imagination.” This dialogue is meant to elucidate ideas about the role that our state plays–willingly or unwillingly–on the national stage. We will discuss the production of “Alabama” as an archetype in traditional media and popular culture, before being introduced to emergent forms of media that serve to disrupt the conventional representations of Alabama as a monolith. This dialogue will lead naturally into the afternoon workshop, where participants will get a hands-on primer into actually creating civic media that defies typification and demands nuance.

The afternoon workshop, “Creating Civic Media: Provoking Thought, Inviting Action” is a crash course in solutions-oriented journalism and restorative narratives, aimed at creating connections among citizens and journalists to bridge the gap between statewide or national media outlets and local stories that often go unnoticed. Participants will learn best practices for crafting an op-ed piece for their local newspaper, or for a larger outlet. This workshop will teach participants how to take a local story from abstract idea to published piece. This is your chance to connect with other journalists, writers, and active citizens to tell your community’s story, reframe the narrative, and flip the script.

You can find the original announcement from David Mathews Center at: www.eventbrite.com/e/2017-civic-institute-tickets-33344668802

New Video on Bringing Participatory Budgeting in Schools

We are excited to announce that NCDD member org – The Participatory Budgeting Project recently released a new video on bringing participatory budgeting in schools. The video is on the recent participatory budgeting pilot in 5 Phoenix high schools, where more than 3,800 students participated in their first PB process. We encourage you to read more about the new PB in Schools video below or find the original on the Participatory Budgeting Project’s blog here.


NEW VIDEO – Participatory Budgeting in Schools

We are proud to share our newest tool to make civics education meaningful by putting real money on the table, our new Participatory Budgeting (PB) in Schools video!

This video introduces you to participatory budgeting in schools by showing you how it worked in Phoenix. Featuring interviews with students, teachers, principals, local elected officials, and the superintendent — see how PB can be a tool for learning democracy while building stronger schools.

Check out Participatory Budgeting in Schools from PBP on Vimeo.

Now we need your help to share the video and redefine the way democracy is learned.

1. Share this video!
Connect with students, parents, educators, school administrators, PTAs or anyone who wants to see the future of democracy start today. PB takes work from committed volunteers, but learning the importance of real democracy as a school community is worth it!

2. Download the guide to PB in Schools.
Get 18 lessons, 6 worksheets, and everything you need to bring PB to a school budget!
Students will learn to work collaboratively, conduct research, solve problems, present solutions, build empathy, deepen community, and explore why participation in democracy matters.

3. Learn more!
Sign up for our newsletter so you never miss an update about the future of PB in Schools.

Consider looking back to read our previous posts about PB in Schools—including the district-wide funds PB process that was featured in the video! [blog post link]

4. Join the community of supporters that make this work possible.
We’re really into this participatory budgeting thing.

Every year we set aside half the money raised by individuals to let our community directly decide how to spend it to make PB more equitable and effective. We call it PB2 (or “PB squared”), it’s PB for PBP.

We know that all PB processes address big concerns. It’s been surprising and exciting to see that for the last two years, our supporters have chosen to support PB processes in schools. You funded the PB in Schools Guide in 2015. In 2016, you supported this new advocacy video.

See what’s on the 2017 PB Ballot and donate to start building the pot of money for next year!

Support from donors lets us try new things. Without this support, thousands of students would never have had the opportunity to directly decide a portion of their school budgets.
PB works because you show up. Thank you for making democracy better with us.

You can find the original version of this blog post from the Participatory Budgeting Project at: www.participatorybudgeting.org/new-video-participatory-budgeting-schools/

PB Network to Host Study Session on Deliberation & Voting

The Participatory Budgeting Project team recently launched the exciting PB Network – a learning and collaboration infrastructure for cities and institutions using participatory budgeting – which is hosting periodic “study sessions” online, and the NCDD network is invited! Their next study session will be a webinar focused on citizens juries and deliberative methods of decision-making this Wednesday, March 22. We encourage you to learn more in the PBP announcement below or sign up here.


Upcoming PB Network Event

We’d like to invite you to the PB Network’s next PBP Study Session on Wednesday, March 22nd!

One of the ideas behind participatory budgeting is that we need to get beyond the simple yes/no votes we’re usually presented with at ballot boxes. Choosing between 2 options doesn’t capture the breadth and subtlety of the needs that many communities face. Deliberation and new voting techniques can help get better decisions that benefit broader groups of people.

The study session will feature Kyle Bozentko of the Jefferson Center, who will share some lessons from “citizen juries“, which take a randomly selected and balanced group of citizens to deliberate and make informed and thoughtful recommendations about a public issue. We’ll also learn from Ashish Goel of Stanford’s Crowdsourced Democracy Team, who works on collaborative decision-making, including developing innovative ballot platforms for participatory budgeting in many cities across the US.

Join us for a discussion on new innovations in participatory decision-making with broad sets of stakeholders.

The webinar will be:
Wednesday, March 22nd
1pm EST/10am PST
Click here to register and receive the webinar info